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  FAO newsroom 15 Mar 05
Forest fires, tsunami, deforestation and Millennium Goals
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International cooperation on forest fires, combating deforestation, and the role of forests in post-tsunami rehabilitation and in achieving the Millennium Development Goals are among the issues being discussed at high-level meetings at FAO this week.

Rome - International cooperation on forest fires, combating deforestation and the role of the forest sector in post-tsunami rehabilitation and in achieving the Millennium Development Goals are among key issues being discussed at the FAO Ministerial Meeting on Forests and the Committee on Forestry this week in Rome.

International cooperation on forest fires

Leading nations from around the world concerned with the future of forests pledged at the third Ministerial Meeting on Forests on Monday (14 March) to continued pursuit of the development of international cooperation on forest fires in order to address uncontrolled forest fires and their root causes. "While fire is an important land management tool, severe wildland fires have catastrophic effects. Lives are lost, livelihoods imperiled, local economies devastated, and the environment seriously degraded," Dr. Jacques Diouf, Director-General of FAO said.

Globally, an average of 400 to 500 million hectares burn each year from forest fires. As a response, bilateral and multilateral cooperation in forest fire management has increased over the past few years. Until now, however, cooperation on forest fire management has focused on fire suppression rather than prevention.

Post-tsunami rehabilitation

The ministers discussed, among other things, the role of forestry in the rehabilitation of Asian communities following the recent tsunami disaster. They called for comprehensive assessment of forest damage from the tsunami and wood needs for reconstruction in order to better respond to the emerging challenges of post-tsunami rehabilitation.

Issues at stake are the rehabilitation of damaged forests; wood salvage; meeting the immediate needs for wood for the reconstruction of piers, bridges, boats, houses and other buildings as well as fuelwood; and the spread of pests and diseases through wood and non-wood products.

FAO is currently analyzing available information and assisting affected countries in their reconstruction efforts in order to restore people's livelihoods within an integrated coastal management programme.

Deforestation and Millennium Goals

The ministers decried the state of global forest degradation and reconfirmed their commitment to sustainable forest management and to improved coordination of economic, environmental and social policies for enhanced contribution of forests to development and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

More than 9 million hectares of forests are lost globally each year, whereas forests provide multiple economic, environmental, social and cultural functions. They help to conserve biodiversity, mitigate climate change, provide clean water and energy, enhance soil fertility and support livelihoods, among others.

Forests contribute directly to achieving two of the Millennium Goals, namely reducing extreme poverty and ensuring environmental sustainability.

Committee on Forestry

Some 400 representatives of member countries, non-governmental organizations and the private sector will discuss during this week ways to implement the commitments to which ministers agreed during their meeting on Monday.

The State of World's Forests 2005, a biennial FAO publication, will also be launched during the committee meeting. The committee meets every two years in Rome to debate key global forestry issues and give advice to FAO on its work programme on forests. It is one of the committees of the FAO's Council.

Over twenty complementary events will be held on the side, covering topics such as forest law compliance; forests and climate change; forests and biodiversity; invasive species and the links between forested areas and violent conflict.

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